Geese Lessons

GeeseI recently heard a talk about geese, in which the speaker made the connection between a flock of geese flying in ‘V’ formation and a potentially contentious group of people. It was a lovely analogy that made perfect sense.

As you may know, when geese fly in formation, the flock increases its flight efficiency by 71% due to the uplift created by each bird flapping its wings. In a sense, the geese ‘travel on the trust’ of one another. What a beautiful concept. I began thinking about how great it would be if employees could always ‘travel on the trust’ of each other in the workplace. But, in order for this to happen, a workplace has to be devoid of the paranoia that often pervades unhealthy workplaces.

As I heard a speaker say during a talk about management, “we are so busy watching you, we can’t hear a word you’re saying.” When individuals within an organization are competing against each other, the emotional climate of the organization tends to be fear-based. Fearful employees are afraid of making mistakes, which tends to make them afraid to act, period. But, the real truth is that we all learn more by making mistakes than we do by accidently getting things right. Employees who are competing against each other don’t share information that could enrich their organization because they are focused on individual, zero-sum gain. No trust, no uplift, less efficiency.

When a goose leaves its formation, it feels the drag and resistance of flying alone and moves back into the ‘V’ to again benefit from ‘the power of the flock.’ It seems fairly obvious that cooperation and sharing of information between and among departments would benefit business. So, why isn’t there more cooperation within organizations? It seems that there is often a problem with translating knowledge into action, which typically points back to a fear-based organizational culture. A healthy workplace values community as beneficial to both productivity and people. An organization that discourages one-upmanship benefits from ‘the power of the flock.’

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